In the 18th century, the East India Company possessed a fleet of merchant vessels for trading between India and England. The journey took several months and was fraught with danger. More than one ship crashed on the rocks off the eastern coast of Africa due to the primitive state of navigation, including the Grosvenor which was wrecked on August 4, 1782. Most of the crew and passengers survived the crash and reached the shore, though most did not survive the trek to the Dutch settlements further south. The author describes various groups of persons and what they did after landing on the African shore. Some eventually reached the Dutch settlements in southern Africa on foot, and a few returned to England, where their testimony of events was taken. There was much speculation regarding the women and children who had been on the ship and what might have happened to them. Many years later, visitors to the area of the wreck discovered people living there who claimed to be descended from white people who came from the water. Since there had been castaways from more than one ship over a period of years, it was difficult to verify which of the Grosvenor's passengers may have lived out the rest of their lives among the natives of the east African shore.
In this well-researched and historical narrative, Stephen Taylor, author of several books on Africa, relates a story of shipwreck and survival. Caliban, a character in Shakespeare's play The Tempest, evidently came to mind as the author researched this celebrated wreck. Readers who enjoy this book might also like Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival by Dean King and Four against the Arctic: Shipwrecked for Six Years at the Top of the World by David Roberts.
Reviewed by mc, 5/07. Other reviews by mc.